Saturday, 7 February 2009
This seller is offering uncirculated new Icelandic 500 kroner notes for $12.50 each; XE gives their worth at the current exchange rate at $4.38. But perhaps since they will shortly be exchanged for Euro notes and then burned, this makes them something of a collector's item.
As a young man, some of my older friends were social workers. We used to sail dinghies together on the Orwell; their work commitments didn't extend to more than twenty hours a a week or so, leaving plenty of time to sail, smoke spliffies and sit in the pub. They were relaxed and good natured, their caseloads were a source of humour and not of stress, the County Council provided them with a car and in some cases with a low-rent cottage in the Suffolk countryside (the Council having a large agricultural land portfolio) and it seemed a pretty good life.
Fast forward a few years to Haringey and the tragedy of Victoria Climbie. To the heartbreaking death of Baby P. Social work was no longer the good life, and no longer a joke. It was deadly serious, stress-filled, impossibly compex with at least half a dozen competing State agencies all proving equally disorganised. The public (or the popular press) demanded heads for failure. No wonder, then, that Haringey can't find social workers to work there. A desperate plea from that council's new childrens' head to London's other thirty councils for each to lend Haringey a social worker drew a blank.
As bastardy has grown exponentially since the late 1970s, and as central Statism has created an underclass even less capable of self-reliance than ever, so child abuse has grown from a rare aberration to something common on our sink estates. Social workers are no longer there to smooth out the wrinkles of the less-well socialised, but as the State's front line in saving innocent lives.
The failure of social work in Haringey is the failure of the dependency culture, the failure of the central State, the failure of Welfarism and the failure of Labour's corrosive destruction of neighbourhoods, communities and local institutions. And with the blind stubborness of the truly stupid, Labour's answer is not less State but more State. The spat between the speccie's Fraser Nelson and blogging Labour MP Tom Harris this week is proof of that.
As Haringey's remaining social workers are all desperately mailing their CVs in search of escape from the place, how long is it going to take Labour to admit that welfare isn't working? How long before they admit that the billions of wasted resource in lunatic social engineering experiments haven't improved things one iota? And how long before another innocent child suffers death from its disfunctional parent?
Friday, 6 February 2009
So nothing to do with changing their minds, eh? Well, that must be alright, then. The campaign will target women, young people and low-income families in Ireland.
Just small things but good ones.
I've no idea how much blood a lamb has, but a human being has about 5.6 litres. Perhaps as Blair lies in bed at night he asks himself just how much human blood has been spilt into the dust by his vanity, his hubris and his pious self-righteousness. And perhaps the answer frightens him.
But perhaps his gospel reading hasn't yet reached Matthew 6:5-7
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
I'm not as naturally brilliant, charismatic, sweary or excitingly shocking as many of the blogs I admire, but I do have tenacity by the bucketload. I'm a slogger. I can't be something I'm not, so you get the slightly anorakish, somewhat pedestrian real me. A professional man who won't let business letters go out of his office unless they're literate, who values probity more highly than you can imagine, who's loyal to (and protective of) his employer and who has an unusually well connected but somewhat Bohemian private circle of friends, and who is deeply and fundamentally committed to the welfare of this nation and of the British people. And who sometimes gets very cross with politicians whom I see destroying all those things I value. Mr Ordinary, really.
That you all read this stuff, normally written early in the morning with coffee, ciggies, 'Today', the bath running and the iron warming, astonishes and delights me. So with many thanks to you all, I'll keep on slogging away. I'm very happy with the little niche I fill and very proud to be part of a caucus of British bloggers with such able and distinguished members and correspondents.
And I'm usually up for a drink.
1. The Foreign Secretary told the judges that the US was threatening to review intelligence sharing links if the court ruled in favour of disclosing the torture / detention evidence
2. The Foreign Secretary told the judges that "The US administration had made this clear through senior officials, both orally and in writing."
The question is, did the Foreign Secretary tell the judges the truth?
With a hastily-buried half denial last night from Downing Street that the US had threatened any such thing, Miliband sought refuge in half-truths on Channel 4 news last night:
“There has been no threat from the United States to 'break off’ intelligence co-operation; Intelligence co-operation depends on confidentiality. We share our secrets with other countries and they share their secrets with us. The founding principle for us and for them is that we can trust the confidentiality of that relationship. In this case, the United States made it clear, in documents that have been published, that there would inevitably be serious and lasting harm if that fundamental principle was breached."But so far no document from 'senior officials' of the US administration has, to my knowledge, been published; all we have is what the FCO told the judges. And a threat to downgrade intelligence links is not the same thing as a threat to 'break off' intelligence links. Weasel words.
Likewise the FCO told the judges that there was no change of position under the Obama administration. This implies that the FCO had asked someone in the Obama administration. But Miliband wriggled on this, saying
“There is no evidence that it doesn’t stand”Which is something completely different; it means no one in Obama's administration had taken the initiative to tell the FCO that there had been a change of view.
Two challenges for the Foreign Secretary:
1. Please publish the documents, or re-publish them if you say they have already been published, from the US administration that made the threat
2. Please confirm whether anyone in the FCO had actually contacted and got an answer from the Obama administration when you told the judges that the US position was unchanged.
Just as a strong groundswell of public opinion is forming, and being recognised by opposition politicians, for a return to greater local democratic control of the police, the Home Office is seeking to manipulate force mergers and a national command structure using the NPIA and ACPO.
I don't have time this morning to do full justice to this, but this succinct summary gives a good background to the issues.
The latest 'review' from HMIC, available HERE, follows a familiar pattern. The Inspector sets up a range of national strategic responses, and then evaluates how well local forces have planned for them. It's a self-fulfilling conclusion that they're not doing as well as they could do under the central command structure of ACPO / NPIA.
What the Inspector chooses to ignore is how well forces meet local priorities and needs.
Perhaps we need two police forces - one a local organisation under local democratic control, and another a national force dealing with major terrorist risks, serious and organised crime and the like, in the manner of the FBI. I don't know.
What I'm certain of is that we need now more than ever an independent Royal Commission on policing to explore all of these issues, and until we get it the Home Office should cease it's creeping manipulation and implementation of a national force by default. And ACPO and the NPIA are deeply undemocratic institutions whose shadowy power and influence needs urgently to be brought into the cold light of day and under democratic scrutiny and control.
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Tories 7 points ahead in the Labour marginals, but they echo Heffer's view of Cameron and Osborne - Gorgeous George only scoring 15% against Ken Clarke's 39% as to which would make the best Chancellor. And 43% thinking Dave would be as heartless as Maggie if you're unemployed against 42% who think he'd do better.
Last August his lawyers applied to the British courts for disclosure of information allegedly held by the Security Service and Secret Intelligence Service (1) about his whereabouts between 2002 and 2004 and (2) about the treatment he received in custody.
His lawyers allege that he was tortured in Karachi (hung by his wrists with leather thongs, food and toilet deprivation, beaten, threatened with a gun). They allege he was flown in July 2002 in a CIA Gulfstream aircraft to a secret detention centre in Morocco, where he was tortured further (beatings, sleep deprivation, his penis cut with a scalpel). They allege that in 2004 the US transferred him to the 'Prison of Drakness' in Kabul where he underwent further torture (kept in a 'black hole', sleep deprived, starved, beaten, hung up, blasted with sound). He was then transferred to Bagram for a few months, and then finally to Guantanamo.
Whilst being held, he was visited and interviewed by officers from the Security Service. Two officers gave secret evidence in court which was treated with great suspicion by the judges. There is no suggestion that SyS or SIS officers participated in physical acts of torture or brutality, but it seems that threats were made by them to BM when they interviewed him. The reticence of the officers to provide truthful evidence was in part because of the risk of incriminating themselves in torture as 'consenting condoners'. The judges said:
In the closing submissions made on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, it was accepted that it was not necessary for BM to establish that the actions of the Foreign Secretary were causative of the wrongdoing. We consider that that acceptance was plainly correct for the reasons we shall set out. It is sufficient that the SyS or SIS became involved in the wrongdoing (even if innocently) by facilitating that wrongdoing.The SyS and SIS had 'facilitated' that wrongdoing by providing to the US intelligence services intelligence they had gathered about BM's life in the UK, his contacts and known associates, information that the US then used in their interrogations of him, at which SyS and SIS officers were not present.
BM's lawyers, you will remember, were asking the British court for the disclosure of evidence that the UK government had to support their allegations and provide a defence for BM when he faced a possible capital charge under US law. The UK government eventually presented a Public Interest Immunity certificate to the court stating that such disclosure would not be in the public interest.
The government was (in part anyway) influenced by an implied threat from the US to the court that disclosure would imperil future intelligence sharing between the US and UK. The reasons the Foreign Secretary gave for his position were summarised by the judge as follows:
i) National security considerations weighed more heavily in the case of relations with the United States than with any other country, The advice the Foreign Secretary had received was that disclosure of the documents by the order of the Court or otherwise by the United Kingdom authorities would seriously harm the existing intelligence sharing arrangements between the United Kingdom and the United States and thereby cause considerable damage to the national security of the United Kingdom, The US administration had made this clear through senior officials, both orally and in writing.
ii) The intelligence relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom was vital to the national security of the United Kingdom. It was essential that the ability of the United States to communicate in confidence with the United Kingdom was protected. Without that confidence the United States Government would not share information in an open manner as was currently the case.
iii) Disclosure by order of the United Kingdom courts would introduce new and, in the mind of the United States Government, uncertain dimensions to a set of practices that currently rested upon certainty.
OK, that's a summary of the general facts of the case.iv) Apart from the damage to the relations between the United States and the United Kingdom Governments, the international relations of the United Kingdom more generally would be damaged as would liaison relationships with third parties.
The judges were clearly unhappy that the US threat, which Obama's officials confirmed, prevented them ordering the disclosure of what the UK knew about BM's rendition and torture. As the Telegraph is reporting, they said:
"In the light of the long history of the common law and democracy which we share with the United States it was in our view difficult to conceive that a democratically elected and accountable government could possibly have any rational objection to placing into the public domain such a summary of what its own officials reported, as to how a detainee was treated by them and which made no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters.
"Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials ... relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be.
"We had no reason ... to anticipate there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States Government that it would reconsider its intelligence sharing relationship, when all the considerations in relation to open justice pointed to us providing a limited but important summary of the reports."
David Davis is clearly angry. The BBC's report says that Nick Robinson said the claims were "extraordinarily serious".
I'm afraid I don't have a great deal of sympathy for Binyan Mohamed. We gave him shelter, provided for his wellbeing, gave him a secure place in a tolerant and decent nation and he repaid it by going off to learn how to slaughter us. Allegedly. On the face of it, he deserves everything he's got.
But I don't like being bullied by the US any more than anyone else does. And their facilities in the UK are too precious for them to lose, so I think the threat is an empty one - although it's remarkably convenient for the Foreign Secretary. My money's on Miliband being behind the whole thing rather than the septics. And perhaps that's why David Davis is protesting now.
In 1976 we were encouraged to organise street parties. Today there would be a hurricane of official discouragement; all adults would have to undergo CRB checks, £5m public liability insurance would need to be in place, and no-one would be allowed to bake a cake or make a sandwich for the party unless they had undergone food hygeine training and the environmental health had certified their fridge. There would need to be a risk assessment, a health and safety policy in place, an application to the council to stop-up the highway complete with traffic management plan, and if anyone wanted to sing, a temporary events licence, entertainments licence and police licence would be needed. If the street party involved a rum punch for the adults, then a whole spectrum of liquer licences would be needed. The licence conditions would specify bouncers, fire marshals and first aid and fire fighting equipment to be on hand; there would also need to be temporary toilets (with a sewer connection licence) as popping indoors for a pee wouldn't satisfy the statutory requirements. In short, in the space of thirty years the State has erected barriers of such formidable complexity that it has robbed the nation of any trust in ourselves.
And if the State doesn't trust us, we don't trust eachother. We're growing used to the State eliminating risk from our lives, to the extent that if something untoward happens - we slip on an icy pavement - it's the State's fault, not an accident. So who's surprised when the State's reaction is to close the pavements in icy weather? To close the schools in case a child slips in the playground? To close the entire southeastern train network for two days in case a passenger (sorry, 'customer') slips on an icy platform?
Yes, after every icy spell the A&E departments will be plastering fractured scaphoids. And thousands will be nursing bruised hips, knees and elbows. That's weather. Accept it.
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Ahem. Can I repost a blog post from some time ago?
This Sun story about a student receiving an £80 FPN for making a snow , er, scupture. Offence details entered by PC Wiley are 'MADE A 4 FOT (sic) HIGH PHALIC (sic) SYMBOL OUT OF SNOW ON PARKER'S PIECE'
'disgruntled commuter' comments on The Magistrate's Blog that
'Phalic' should have two 'l's. As perhaps should PC Wiley.
There's nothing to add to that.
The law has changed a little since I painfully read learned counsel's opinion on double-space typed (with a typewriter, a machine unknown to the Y Generation) foolscap sheets back in the mid 90s as to how we could stop several naughty chaps from moving their assets beyond our reach, and we probably can't call them Mareva injunctions and Anton Piller orders any more, but they're back. Like shoulder-pads and weird new romantic hairstyles.
M'learned friends will know what I mean, but Joshua Rozenberg has a neat column in tonight's Standard about it.
In that case, a rigorous audit of the register by the police and city council led to a drop of 80% in the number of registered postal votes in the two wards at the heart of the fraud, and more than 50% in four other wards. Report HERE.
I don't think all the spurious postal votes in Birmingham were Labour party fraud, for what it's worth. I think many of them were spurious immigrant registrations. As I blogged back in August last year;
'Combing out' a million unproductive immigrants and packing them off home may sound like a huge task, but it need not be. First we must abolish the automatic right of Commonwealth citizens to vote. Signing onto the electoral register opens up a whole world of bank accounts, social housing and benefits as well as access to utility accounts . Our electoral register is deeply corrupted with false entries and the unentitled. When one council started to undertake a house-by-house audit after a postal vote fraud scandal, their electoral role rapidly fell by 80% as the frauds withdrew. This would be replicated in all of our large towns and cities.The probity of our electoral registers is the key to the health of our democracy. We've neglected it at our peril. Only Commonwealth citizens who can verify both their identity and that they have exceptional leave to remain in the UK should be admitted to the register. Postal vote applications should be supported by a declaration signed by someone above fraud - and this won't include semi-literate village imams, self-proclaimed African ministers with a $30 degree in divinity from the Port Harcourt Postal School of Theology or new-age crystal healing Shamans. Sod them.
We need to tackle this petty corruption locally, at our grass roots, or not only Glenrothes but every election result will be open to corrosive doubt. Time to start the clean-up.
Anyway Jon, I see you’ve requested to become my friend on Facebook (2,416 and rising.) Welcome on board. So perhaps you could now tell me what you mean by 'emotional intelligence?' If as you say Cameron has got it, I’m damn sure we don’t need it.John, 'emotional intelligence' is what usually prevents a 65 year-old man from taking sexual advantage of a young and vulnerable employee awed by her employer's status. 'Emotional intelligence' is what tells us it will all end in tears and Chipolata jibes.
In the comments to Stiglitz's piece is this:
"To grasp how impossible it is for governments to re-float banks, consider this:
US annual GDP is about $15 tr
UK annual GDP is about $2.8 tr
World's GDPs for all nations is approx $50 tr
Total value of the world's property is estimated at about $75 tr
Total value of world's stock and bond markets is more than $100 tr
BIS valuation of world's derivatives back in 2002 was about $100 tr
BIS 2007 valuation of the world's derivatives is a whopping $516 trillion"
Letting all the exposed banks go bust and starting over again on the face of it has certain attractions. Who would lose?
Monday, 2 February 2009
"Older drinkers also drank more regularly, with 21 per cent of the over-45s having alcohol at least five days a week compared with just 6 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds, confounding the stereotype of binge-drinking teenagers and students."
Older people living longer, healthier lives - Dept. for Work & Pensions, 29th January
"Older people are living longer, healthier lives than they did ten years ago, according to a report published today. Not only has life expectancy for those over 65 increased, but healthy life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy at age 65, have increased."
Or maybe the old'uns just know what's good for them better than Nanny does?
If I was a minister, or even a Tory minister-in-waiting, I would be very frightened by the picketing of oil refineries where contracts have been awarded to foreign workers. This is the start of something big, the first stirrings of an anger that is bound to grow.....Yes. I think 2009 will be year when we discover whether we still have a spine or not.
The notion of accepting hardship and sacrifice bravely is quite alien to our modern experience, which is why social unrest is so plausible.
In London the buses never stopped running.
Now with a few inches of snow, TfL and the bus companies have halted all of the capital's buses. Shameful.
This is going to be a bit of a bonus for many people; technically they're supposed to report any timber they salvage to the Receiver of Wreck, but I won't hold my breath. We'll turn a blind eye and the beaches will be clear in no time.Of course, he didn't say that at all.
What he actually said was that beaches were dangerous places and should only be entered by trained professionals in safety gear, that handling a plank of wood needed special skills and the government would engage qualified contractors at enormous expense to do so, and that any member of the public who so much as touched a piece of timber risked imprisonment. Libby Purves shares a lesson from Suffolk in today's Times:
And what has all this to do with public policy, the world crisis, and all the other stuff you are meant to read about on The Times Opinion pages? I will tell you. First of all, watching that day of mildly lawless yet constructive and sensible salvage, and hearing it set against a background of official warnings and bossings and safety angst, I understood something more strongly than ever before. For any government to work in any area of life, it must latch on to these public qualities of self-reliance, effort, ingenuity and willingness to do the obvious thing - clear up the mess of unforeseen events and use what's in front of you. British and European government, of late, does not do that. It sets up too many rules and forms, and trusts us too little.The want of official courage is failing us all. The fear of litigation, the fear of ministerial disapproval, and a culture of institutionalised risk aversion taken to the nth degree results in an overweening State culture of mistrust that wastes the natural talents, resourcefulness, tenacity and capabilities of the British people. Now, more than ever, must we work to reverse this corrosive and destructive official cowardice.
Sunday, 1 February 2009
Take this concluding para in a Times story today:
A close friend said: “You get these sorts of issues in any organisation. But it’s bollocks to say Robert promoted people because they were his friends. He’s promoted people who are complete c***s.”Now how much better and easier would it read with the h-word:
A close friend said: “You get these sorts of issues in any organisation. But it’s bollocks to say Robert promoted people because they were his friends. He’s promoted people who are complete hoons.”A word whose time has come.
For every Pakistani sucking at the taxpayer's teats is an Indian paying those taxes. For every feckless Somali demanding housing and health care is a Chinese grafting sixty hours a week to pay for it. The left-leaning ippr carried out an important study in 2007 that identified why Labour's immigration policy had not raised per capita GDP in the UK one iota; half our immigrants are net contributors, adding to GDP and paying taxes and creating wealth, and half of them are net consumers, spending taxes and subtracting from national wealth. The key, of course, is knowing which half is which. And it's not based on skin colour.
The Speccie commented in 2008:
If the government is serious about optimising the planning of public services, it needs to disaggregate the immigrant population and find out which groups are profit centres and which are cost centres. No doubt it has been doing so quietly in the background, but it looks as if talking frankly about the results of this exercise in public would blow their political cover to smithereens. The best research so far available (prepared by the IPPR late last year for Channel 4’s Dispatches) makes for uneasy reading. Only 1 per cent of Polish immigrants claim income support, as opposed to 21 per cent of Turkish immigrants and 11 per cent of Pakistanis; only 8 per cent of Poles live in social housing, compared with 80 per cent of Somalis, and 41 per cent of Bangladeshis.And within national groups, as well as between them, things are complex. Tens of thousands of honest, hard working Nigerian health care workers keep the NHS working, on low wages for the most part, doing jobs the white underclass scorn. We'd be better off deporting our own chavs to Lagos than losing these Nigerians. But there are also tens of thousands of Nigerians engaged in petty fraud, feeding on British public services, on the take and on the make. We don't need them, don't want them and would be better off without them taking up accommodation and crowding out access to public services. But we need above all to distinguish between them.
Any popular reaction against immigration on the streets that targets people with a different skin colour is wholly wrong and will not get an ounce of encouragement from this blog. We must encourage the government to comb-out the free riders and send them home, for we cannot afford to keep them. But above all we mustn't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
This is the nightmare prospect that the lunatic Harman is now attempting to engineer, with Brown's support, for the Commons.
Quite why this most half-witted Leader of the House should want to travel down this road is beyond me, apart from the obvious party political advantage. The best and most effective measure to tackle Parliamentary sleaze is transparency - but Harman doesn't like transparency. To impose a ban on all outside interests would not make the Commons less sleazy unless it was coupled with absolute transparency, but it would close the house to all but apparatchiks and the vomitous political class.
MPs from both sides of the house who still value the primacy of Parliament, and not the dying parties' headquarters, as the nation's legislative nexus will oppose this move absolutely.